Welcoming nature into your house through biophilic design

GOING GREEN: Get advice on simple hanging plants, and determine which plants are shade resistant. Photo: Shutterstock.
GOING GREEN: Get advice on simple hanging plants, and determine which plants are shade resistant. Photo: Shutterstock.

Biophilic design may be an exploding trend in the design world, but as a concept it's nothing new.

It's been around for a long, long time. Popularised in the 1980s, it's about bringing nature into your space. On the grand scheme of things, in terms of evolution, we're relatively new to the idea of living inside, as opposed to living largely in nature and sheltering in caves.

As we've transitioned from outdoor life to indoor life, the concept functions through three different bases: the nature of space, the nature in space, and natural analogues.

In a nutshell, biophilic design is how you engage nature in your environment. It's about incorporating the outside world into the inside world, harnessing plants and design elements from the natural world.

There are many serious wellness benefits of incorporating nature into your interior living space and the research behind this is continuously mounting.

If you put plants into the likes of an office or production space, you get a lift in creativity as well as productivity. Hotels and AirBnbs which engage biophilic design typically get at least a 20 per cent boost in revenues. The education sector experiences a massive impact; why we don't have school rooms completely filled with plants is incredible. There have been recorded instances of 20-25 per cent improvements in test results in schools with more plants in the classrooms. Communities where you have kids with ADHD can see the condition drop by half. There can be a massive health and wellness impact based on its proper use.

And why?

The calming effect of being attached to nature is something that is ingrained in us. It grounds us and brings us back to a more 'real' environment. Major cities around the world, such as Singapore, Wellington, Boston and others have planning rules that require biophilic design to be incorporated into new constructions.

Among home builders and renovators, COVID has brought biophilic design into focus. It's been trending for years, but 2020 made people feel disconnected from nature; starved of the opportunity to go outside, their senses unfulfilled. It's something that has been missing from our human makeup.

ECO WISE: Home design expert Adrian Ramsay hosts the Talk Design podcast.

ECO WISE: Home design expert Adrian Ramsay hosts the Talk Design podcast.

Can it be easily done?

Absolutely. Go to a nursery and find out what plants grow in specific parts of your home. Take photos with you and ensure you say where the windows are and where the breeze is coming in. Get advice on simple hanging plants, and determine which plants are shade resistant. Consider if you could put a herb planter on your kitchen bench and if it's something you could eat from. Tend to your plants regularly ... even talk to them!

That's the simple way. Going larger, on a bigger design scale, assess the external environment first, and then work out how you could blend it with the indoors. That could be as simple as building a courtyard in the middle of the house, or an atrium and then landscaping so that the walls open up. Going a bit further than that and you end up getting into spatial design - making spaces that meet the 'golden ratio', as well as having a certain volume within them as well.

How do we blend indoors and outdoors?

Look at the space and ask, what's the journey that people are going to take when they arrive here? Look at what's already there, and think about how to bring some of that in; to landscape the environment; to blur the lines between indoors and outdoors.

It's something that can be done easily, on small or large scales. That part is up to you - and your budget. The benefits will ultimately outweigh whatever costs there are, given that people more in touch with nature in their immediate environment are so much more content, productive and inspired than those who are simply surrounded by concrete, steel and glass.